Recording LIVE math classes

After an 8 day journey I finally figured out how to record my live classes with Google Hangouts. Now, let’s be clear that this is not a huge feat if you are teaching something that can be done solely with a computer. My problem is that I need to use my iPad to share my screen using Explain Everything. I have figured out a few things in this process that make me ultimately happy that Google Hangouts won’t let you record a live meeting from an iPad. Read on to hear the journey.

The quick history

We have been asked to hold daily office hours to answer student questions and of course we’re responsible for teaching our students. Initially I chose to do this by recording a video every morning and posting it. However, after just a few days I missed my kids and I needed the feedback sooner. I wanted to be able to answer their questions in the moment and I wanted to make sure I was delivering instruction at a level and pace they could manage. These things are both better accomplished with a LIVE class. I also wanted to record the class. I asked my accelerated Algebra students to attend live classes for 4 days so I could work out the kinks with them. Our first 7 days are chronicled here, with day 8 below.

Day 8

I was beyond excited. Day 8 was the day I’d record. I had it all set-up and I was ready – until I showed up in class at 9:55. Soon it was 10:02 and then 10:03 (our normal start class time). No one was there. My class is a prompt group of students. This is the class that meets right after lunch in school. Somehow they all make it up the 2 flights of stairs from lunch and find themselves in their seats working at the ring of the 3 minute bell. Really, there was no way everyone was late. I wrote in Google classroom.

Are you able to join the live class? Usually people are right on time and no one has come yet … I’m trying out recording and I don’t know if I messed up access for you by setting it up how I did. If you are online, can you either try to join the class now or comment on this that you can’t for some reason? I know Greta can’t make it today.

Our back and forth started as Maren said, “We’re all here. We can’t see you.” Anna chimed in, “Yeah. We are all on a live class.” I said, “Ok wait patiently while I try things. SO sorry” and we continued. Soon I was able to join. I figured out what happened. Suddenly it all made sense.

You must be part of the School

I was using 2 screens. I had my Chromebook and my iPad. I had figured out that I could join once as my son (with an in district account) and once as myself (with my teacher account). But, for this day I changed one thing. I thought, “why not join as myself in my regular Gmail account?” The hangout allowed this to happen, BUT it bumped me to a new hangout when my outside of school account joined. It didn’t tell me that. So here I am as two versions of me waiting for students and the students are on the Hangout I set up for them. Lesson learned.

YOUr device needs to be fast enough

I don’t really know what is up with my school issued Chromebook, only that once I finally got in again as my son and me and went to record my Chromebook froze and just wouldn’t record. I tried with it again during office hours and the same thing happened. I had a solution. I’d join one more time on my laptop and we’d be all set. I had a plan for Monday. Our recorded classes would start then. In the meantime I also sorted out the volume on all the devices. You need the volume turned fully off on each device except the one device you are recording from. It is not enough to just mute the microphone in Hangouts. The volume must be OFF or you will have terrible feedback.

How to set up the live class and then record

This is my method and it works incredibly well for math. I’m also giving my workflow and the way I set up the class portion of things. You can adjust everything as needed for your purposes.

  1. Set up your Hangout link. Join in all the places you want. You may join as yourself in all places. For this I have 3 screens. They are: A Chromebook so I can see how my screen looks presented for the kids, my laptop for recording and occasional screen sharing and my iPad for the main screen sharing.
  2. Open up the Hangout at least 10 minutes before class starts. Students can arrive at their leisure and chat. At this time I have my iPad displaying my Explain Everything screen. It gives the agenda for the class and tells students what they need to get (calculator, graph paper, pencil etc). Set a start time so they know when you actually plan to start class. For me this is 3 minutes after our 10 am stated class time. We figured this out the first day when 3 minutes felt like an eternity in the virtual world. After a week of this, we have settled into chatting more comfortably and it no longer feels so long. When you start the class, tell them that you are going to record and start the record button from the laptop, computer or Chromebook. You can’t record from the iPad version because Google doesn’t support recording from mobile.
  3. Begin the lesson. I use Explain Everything to create a slideshow with all the problems in advance. This way I’m just filling things in and not taking time to write problems down etc. A note on this. I’m sure you are in a similar situation with clear directives to not take too much time for one subject. I gave myself 20 minutes for class time. It feels short. We really have 17 minutes. I respect this time no matter what though. We always wrap by 10:20. It means we don’t learn as quickly as we do in school, so I’m focusing my curriculum on the very essential content.
  4. When you are running the lesson you may toggle between your iPad and laptop because of the dual screens. Note that the Chromebook is not fully needed. I don’t actually need a 3rd screen BUT I like having it because I can see what most of my students will see for the presentation view. They are on school issued Chromebooks with just a few exceptions. Also note that you cannot see who is present on the mobile version if you are presenting your screen. I like that I have the laptop and Chromebook version to see who is present and to use the chat feature as a class tool
  5. When you are done, make sure you have recorded who is in class (if you desire that information), wrap things up and say goodbye to everyone and then wait for your recording to be emailed to you. This typically takes a few minutes and up to 30 minutes, depending on the internet load. I post the recording inside Google classroom and @mention the students who missed class so they can go watch it at their leisure. Additionally I post the class inside a password protected part of my website so that parents can view if they would like to help support their child.

A couple of helpful hints for hosting the live class

Try to keep things simple and direct. Use the chat to get replies from students. In our Algebra class we’re working on graphing parabolas in vertex form. We’ve had a total of 34 minutes of instruction across 2 days. I asked today “let me know if you feel you have this and could take a quiz on it or if you need more time.” The chats came in “Got it” and “I am close. Maybe a few more problems” and “more practice please” and so on. That let me know we should do the last two examples I had and know that I need to plan to give more opportunities to get this ingrained into their minds. The chat feature is awesome!

It is ok to call on students. If you have a classroom routine already from a brick and mortar classroom, you probably don’t have to visit the “what to do if I don’t know the answer?” However it might not be a bad idea to remind students they can pass or just not know the solution. I find that with the virtual space, it is useful to select students from time to time, otherwise they have a hard time unmuting quickly enough and answering. It is a literal race to get to answer first. You can use a random number generator, popsicle sticks – anything. I am just looking at the list and bouncing around. In 17 minutes I feel that I have to focus on the point and some of these things just can’t be part of my day.

Final thoughts about live classes

I can’t require my students to attend these classes but I do strongly encourage it. I think it helps them and me in this uncertain time. We can continue to learn together synchronously instead of being off cycle from each other. We can do things like share our April Fool’s day jokes and discuss assignment questions. Some amazing questions get asked in the live environment. I feel really happy that the numbers are staying pretty constant after almost 2 weeks of daily classes. My class has 16 students and on any given day we have at least 12 – 14 students present. One day we had 15!

I started this with my Math 8 students a few days ago. I have 4 sections of this class and am hosting one live class. We voted on a 1 pm time and so far we have a little over 50% attendance. I also record that class for students to watch later. I’m pleased with the turnout, though I’m really hopeful we can grow it in the next week. This first week I offered 3 classes out of the 5 day week, but the next week we’ll have two. I have 4 students who voted for an am time, so I plan to check in with them to see if they would come if I offered an additional time. It could be nice to have two opportunities for the Math 8 crew so it is easier for them to ask questions. It can be tough to get to everyone in a large class environment.